Certain lifestyle factors can benefit your good-for-you bacteria, too.

Throughout our June 2018 issue, we detail many of the food choices that can affect—for better or worse—your gut microbiome. Along with those diet decisions, some of your lifestyle habits also can help lead you to better gut health. Here, we explain three easy ways to further boost your gut.

1. Adopt a furry friend.

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Raising your child with a pet around does more than just provide a loving playmate; it can positively alter your child’s gut health. Research found two kinds of good-for-you gut bacteria were richer and more diverse in babies exposed to furry pets while in the womb and after birth. Other studies have shown the presence of these bacteria correlates with a decreased risk for childhood obesity and allergies.

2. Start moving.

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Exercise has long been linked to an overall healthier life, and studies in mice have shown that it can improve gut microbiota, resulting in better ability to stave off inflammation. Recently, researchers studied the effects of exercise on human gut microbial composition: Without changing their diets, non-exercisers (half of whom were normal weight, the other half obese) engaged in regular exercise. After six weeks, changes occurred in microbial makeup that could result in reduced inflammation in the gut and the rest of the body. (Although all subjects saw benefits, improvements were greatest in the leaner group.) Researchers then tested participants after six weeks of not exercising, and gut microbiota had reverted back to their starting levels—suggesting that the benefits are achievable, but to maintain them, exercise should be consistent.

3. Soak up vitamin D.

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A little bit of sunshine can do wonders for your mood, but an extra dose of vitamin D also can help your gut. In one study, neurology patients who took a combination of vitamin D and 100mg of all B vitamins experienced improved sleep, reduced pain, and (unexpectedly) the resolution of bowel issues.

The study, which puts vitamin D on the map for those looking to improve gut health, suggested that this supplement combination created the optimal intestinal environment favoring four phyla of bacteria that make up the normal human microbiome: Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes, and Proteobacteria. Another review also found vitamin D supplements might be able to ease IBS symptoms.